Roan Yellowthorn is beautiful representation of being an individual. It has this flamboyance and brightness draws your attention, which is exactly its purpose. Singer-songwriter Jackie McLean, daughter of Don McLean, wanted to forge her own path and her own name. And at times, it was a struggle to break from her famous last name. While still carrying on the musical and artistic tradition of her legacy, she is setting herself apart and doing amazing things with her gifts. Her whimsy, charm and opinions make everything real and raw.
The lovely frontwoman of Roan Yellowthorn took a few minute to sit and chat with us. Enjoy!
Jackie McLean: Hey guys! It’s going really well! We’ve been in a mixing vortex this past month- working hard on finishing up our new album and enjoying the last of summer. Basically living the dream!
LM: Awesome! Could you tell us a little about the origins of Roan Yellowthorn?
JM: Ya! I came up with the name ‘Roan Yellowthorn’ in college with the idea of changing my name to something more whimsical. That never happened, but I kept it in the back of my mind because I loved the sound of the words. Then, a few years ago when I started writing songs and performing regularly, I needed some kind of alter ego. I was toying with a few different ideas and my partner Shawn [Strack] suggested ‘Roan Yellowthorn.’ It was perfect!
LM: You come from a famous musical family. What was it like growing up in that type of environment?
JM: My day-to-day life growing up was very normal and low-key. I spent a lot of time at home with my family watching movies, reading, creating. When I started school I learned there was something that set me apart- I grew up in a really small coastal town- and it made me self-conscious. I wanted to fit in with everyone. And I did. But if someone brought up my dad or ‘American Pie’ it made me uncomfortable.
I was known as a musical person in high school and there was some tension there. It was important to me to differentiate myself and carve out my own identity and I did that more in college. But there was a lonely side to that college experience – feeling a bit detached from my roots; somewhat un-moored. Luckily I feel good about my identity now. I embrace my heritage. I’m proud of my dad’s music and proud to be part of an artistic family. And I’m proud of who I am as an individual.
LM: The track, “Child In Chief” is a brilliant, powerful political anthem. Please tell us a little bit about your songwriting process for this song.
JM: Thank you! I was shaken to the core by the election, as many people were. I had a lot of anxiety leading up to November 8th. I went to bed at like 7pm on election night to avoid seeing the whole thing, hoping that the morning would bring relief and it would all be over.
When Shawn came up at about midnight, I asked him how it was going. “Bad,” he said. “Really bad.” I started reeling. I was like, “What? What? He didn’t win did he?” I was in shock. So many things were going through my mind. I was panicking. I had a lot of feelings to process. I got my notebook, went downstairs and started writing. I wrote “Child in Chief” in two hours and felt better when it was done.
Songwriting is wonderful therapy, but to get the reward of a song I have to let myself really feel my feelings. That’s not always easy. It’s easier to avoid, but I’m glad I wrote that night instead of tuning out by turning on the TV or checking the news. I was able to channel my emotions into something outside of myself. That always feels good.
LM: It was a tough time for a lot of us, but songs like “Child In Chief” help us know that we are not alone. So we know that a new album is coming later this year and we can not wait! Could you tell us a little bit about the record?
JM: Aw! Thank you! We’re really excited. Most of the songs on the album are ones I’ve written over the past year and they all have a similar mood. There’s a cohesion to the album that is satisfying to me. I think they represent a growth process – I wrote most of them in order to work through emotions I’ve been carrying around for a while. It’s a relief to release them this way. Every song on the album means a lot to me and I’m grateful I’ve been able to devote time and care to them.
LM: Personal and emotional albums are so cathartic.
JM: We recorded this summer for a week straight at two awesome studios, both in the Hudson Valley – Nada Recording Studio, with our awesome friend John, where we recorded our first EP, and a place we’d never been before called Artfarm. They were both close to Bard, where Shawn and I met, and while Shawn was recording drums and bass and guitar, I took a little solo trip back there to see some friends and reminisce. I love being in the Hudson Valley.
After we got all of the recording done, we took everything back to our home studio set-up. Shawn is a talented and tenacious producer and he’s been mixing for the past month. Round after round of tweaks. It’s meticulous work but it’s really starting to pay off. It’s important to us to have control over the process. We’re both perfectionists so it’s been insane and consuming at times, but also fun and liberating.
LM: In the meantime, while we wait impatiently, what is coming up next for Roan Yellowthorn?
JM: Well, we’re getting ready to release the first single off the album and we’re starting to map out the music video for it. We’ve never done a music video before and we’re both really looking forward to it. We live in a college town so we’re going to cast a bunch of college kids and see what happens. Nudity may be involved. I can’t wait!
LM: That’s fantastic! We are looking forward to it. Thanks again for your time, Jackie!
JM: Thank you! You guys are the best!
While we wait for the new album, we suggest you pick up self-titled EP, Roan Yellowthorn by Roan Yellowthorn, on iTunes now and check out the politically charged single, “Child In Chief” on YouTube below!